In Shielded, Reuters provides an eye-opening look at qualified immunity. This multipart investigation explores how “the criticism that qualified immunity denies justice to victims of police brutality is well-founded.” The series features stories, provides statistics, and talks to legal experts about the wide-ranging effects of this court-created doctrine.
Shielded is divided into four parts.
Part 1, Supreme Defense, looks at how the Supreme Court’s “continual refinement of an obscure legal doctrine” has made it harder to hold bad cops accountable for their misconduct. It also shines a spotlight on Erma Aldaba. A court dismissed Aldaba’s lawsuit over her son’s deadly encounter with police because of qualified immunity.
Part 2, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, accentuates the significant regional disparities in how federal courts treat cases of qualified immunity. This section also tells the story of David Collie. Police shot and paralyzed David for a crime he didn’t commit. And because of qualified immunity, the officer faced no criminal charges.
Part 3, Dueling Rights, examines how qualified immunity gives police an edge over Americans’ Second Amendment rights. It focuses on the story of Andrew Scott. Andrew was brandishing his legally owned firearm when bad cops killed him in a wrong-door raid. Despite their gross negligence, the cops who shot Andrew were granted qualified immunity.
Part 4, Color of Suspicion, looks at how Black Americans in particular bear the burden of aggressive policing. It examines the history of policing in the United States, with an emphasis on the racist origins of qualified immunity. It highlights the stories of victims such as Luke Stewart, Clayton Dobbins, and Shase Howse. These unarmed Black men drew the ire of the police even though they weren’t breaking the law.
Read the entire series here.